As medical marijuana use grows, company drug and alcohol policies under scrutiny

As medical marijuana use grows, company drug and alcohol policies under scrutiny

In Top Stories by MediReview StaffLeave a Comment

A Quinnipiac University poll last year had 94 percent of respondents saying they favor legalization of medical marijuana. Presumably, at least some of those supporters own or operate companies or otherwise manage staff as part of their professional responsibilities. And, despite that expressed support, questions can bubble up for employers when it comes managing a staff member who legally and legitimately uses medical marijuana. At its root, says Katherine Koop Irwin, an employment law attorney at Tucker Arensberg, Downtown, employers may feel caught in a stand-off between conflicting obligations: How do they provide a safe work environment while protecting their workers’ rights? Part of it has to do with peculiarities of cannabis — traces of which can be detected in blood tests for a month or more after use, long after there’s any question of impairment. A positive blood test may not mean much at all. There’s an added wrinkle for companies holding federal contracts: Pennsylvania may have a two-year law on the books legalizing medical marijuana but the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency still considers its use a criminal offense. So an employer may be left wondering if it could be sued for discrimination by disciplining or limiting an employee certified to use medical marijuana. Even if it doesn’t, it may risk being in violation of the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. What’s an employer to do? Ms. Koop Irwin suggested at Tuesday’s Pittsburgh Business Group on Health forum that employers come up with set criteria establishing “reasonable suspicion” that an employee is impaired, such as falling asleep at their desk or an inability to concentrate on a work task. The point is, it probably takes more than a blood test to act against an employee. She suggests proactively talking to the employee about their usage and whether […]

Leave a Comment